Friday, August 28, 2009

The Quick Brown Fox….

At one time offices resounded with the clicking of the keys of typewriters and the pleasant sound of the bell as the typewriter carriage approached the end of the paper. Not any more, with computers replacing almost all of them in offices. At least, it has in ours.

As students, our projects and assignments had to be neatly typed before submission . And most trooped in to typewriting institutes to seek the services of a typist. I was lucky, since my grandfather’s typewriter - the Underwood Champion - was available at home and weeks of practice every summer had ensured that I had not totally forgotten how to type. To save on money, I painstakingly typed the first draft of my thesis ( for my postgraduate requirement). It was an effort considering that those days we had no whitener solution to mask the errors. All we had was a typewriter eraser that was made with hard rubber, that invariably smudged the paper. And one had to master the art of typing with just the right amount of pressure, so as not to puncture a hole in the paper. Well, when I went to my advisor with the draft, she had one look at it and asked me to change the typist!

I continued to use the typewriter for many years ( and had subsequently improved my typing skills!) till a problem cropped up with the space bar of the machine. And the guy who came in to repair the more recent typewriters ( this is about 15 years ago) had no clue on how to set it right. And there it was laid to rest…. Until I read this blog of note.

Homes with a typewriter , almost always had a Pitman manual to help you learn to use one. There was even an illustration in the first few pages to show how to be seated while typing. Feet together, back erect, placement of fingers on the keyboard and so on...

Those who did not own a typewriter had to go to the institute, and there was one in almost every locality, to learn. And it was important since typing was at one time considered an added qualification for any job!

Who ever imagined that one day the machine would be obsolete and taken over by the computer. I was in for a surprise when I tried to date my typewriter. I have not really succeeded in doing so, but it seems to have been introduced in the 1930s.

I gather that the typewriter is made of 1800 movable parts! And that factories that made typewriters used the same equipment and methods as factories that made guns, and so, when US entered the Second World War, most of the manufacturers changed to making rifle barrels as there was more need for arms.

The first typewriter was made commercially by Remington & Sons in 1873. And 550 were made in the first year. Initially people did not think that it would replace the written word, but it did. And its introduction contributed greatly to the emancipation of women. They entered the work force in great numbers.

There are now only two companies that manufacture typewriters and the largest manufacturer is Godrej and Boyce in Mumbai, India, who still make at least 12,000 units each year (the other company being Olympia). A major number is exported to countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Angola, Mozambique, Morrocco, and the UAE . The remaining is sold in India in 15 Indian languages The company expects the demand to last only for another 3-5 years before they fade into history .

The typewriter may disappear, but the QWERTY keyboard has remained the universal keyboard right from the experimental machines to the present day computers. Nobody really knows why the letters were arranged in this manner. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog – is the panagram ( that contains all the 26 letters of the alphabet) used to test the typewriter and computer keyboard

So, what does one do with their old typewriters. Suddenly, it appears that they have become valuable and are sold on eBay. And what about the one I own? Well, it shall remain with me for a long, long time. For all the memories associated with it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chowmahalla Palace

It was like rediscovering my city as I took my brother and his family around the various touristy sites. I had heard that the Chowmahalla Palace was open to public , but then this was a place that had gone unnoticed the many times I had gone past it on the way to a friend's place in the old city. Of course, one had no inkling of what lay beyond the tall walls of the palace.

Rather reluctantly and hoping not to be disappointed we made our way to the Palace. And what we saw was amazing.

The Chowmahalla Palace, built over 200 years ago was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty where the Nizams entertained their official guests and royal visitors. Chowmahalla as the name indicates comprises of four palaces and is supposedly a replica of the Shah of Iran's palace in Teheran. Of the 45 acres on which the Palace was originally built, only 12 acres remain.

The Shishe-Alat ,which was once used as guest rooms for officials accompanying visiting dignitaries . 'Shishe' meaning mirror image of the Bara Imam - a long corridor of rooms on the east side that housed the administrative wing .

The Khilwat, the grand Durbar Hall with a distinct Persian influence . The beautiful belgian chandeliers take your breath away. The hall has a pure marble platform on which the Takht-e-Nishan or the royal seat was laid

The ornate ceiling:

The clock above the main gate to Chowmahalla Palace is the Khilwat Clock. It has been kept ticking away mainly due to the efforts of a family of clock repairers that wind the mechanical clock every week .

The lovely windows from the exterior.

A view through the window

The Mehtab Mahal

I seem to have got carried away. And these are just few of the pictures that were taken. One could spend the whole day just admiring the architecture, the carved furniture, the lovely chandeliers, the vintage cars, and all that is synonymous with royalty.

The castles of Scotland can wait a while, let me first discover the beautiful palaces in my neighbourhood.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What Do I Get?

I cannot remember if I ever asked my parents that! When we were growing up, there were rules and duties that we had to adhere to or were assigned and it had to be done. And nothing was ever promised in return. Nor did we expect it.

It seems to be a different game altogether now. Tell a child to do something and often enough , the child asks ‘so what do I get?’ If ever we had done that, I am sure it would have been a sound spanking.

But I guess one has to change, this is a world that moves on incentives, perks and rewards.

And therefore this column by Gouri Dange was interesting. It was about the distinction between bribing or offering incentives to a child. Ms Dange says there is a very thin line between the two and she cites an example from the adult world.

An organisation may offer an incentive for every job that is completed well and on time. And this serves as a motivation to work and finish by the given deadline. If the organisation, on completion of the project, sends a special box of sweets or takes the employees out for a meal that is a reward. If on the other hand, the employee will undertake the job only after a payment is made, then that would be a bribe.

And the difference essentially is that an incentive and reward is made when the work is completed whereas in the case of the bribe, the work does not get initiated unless the bribe is made.

And she therefore counsels that when bringing up a child, the incentive and reward can be encouraged, but bribing the child to study, eat, play or behave is like being held to ransom where nothing will move without the ‘bribe’. And she concludes that children of parents who bribe have never been taught the intrinsic value of doing something, whereas those who receive an incentive or reward realise that some jobs need to be done even if they are not fun, and that makes the parents happy to give him a reward.

But, I am not totally convinced that it is essential to give children incentives and rewards all the time. Especially when they are young. The corporate world is a different situation altogether. But a word of appreciation should serve as motivation enough for a child without him/her having to expect something for every job done. Some activities should never, in the first place, be considered a 'job' like behaving well, cleaning up their room, completing the homework. We grew up fine without these rewards and that is still the better way of bringing up children.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Magnificent Golconda Fort

I love forts. I may not dwell too much into their history, but am amazed by the engineering skills of the ancient times, all without mechanical aids that are used in modern day construction. And to think they have withstood battles, foreign invasions and natural calamities are a marvel.

The ardous climb

View from the top

The fort wall

The Golconda fort was built in the 13th century. The perimeter of the fort is about 7 miles. It has 87 semi circular bastions. Like most forts in India, it a huge gate which has sharp iron knobs to protect from attack of elephants. The center porch was acoustically designed, and the sounds from here could be heard at the centre point at the top of the fort, and the arrival of any visitor would be immediately conveyed in this manner. The fort houses arms depot, the baths, barracks, watering canals, the stables and reservoirs ( these were constructed at different levels and the irrigation systems at the fort were considered extremely superior). The general assembly or the Balahisar is located at the summit of the fort, which is 400 ft above the sea level.

The fort is invariably on the itinerary of any visitor to our city. But with bad roads and terrible traffic, the thought of visiting the fort is a nightmare. To avoid these hardships, guests would be generally put on the sight-seeing bus . But when my brother who was here on a holiday from the U S of A with his family expressed a desire to see the fort, I decided to take them there. And it was well worth the effort, as always.
The path to the fort has encroachments, in fact, the shops and houses led almost to the entrance of the fort, and a golf course that is coming in the vicinity is a major threat to the lovely structure. One must compliment the archaeological department for keeping the place 'fairly' clean. And to allow cameras to be taken in without a fee.
However, signs like this cause some amusement.

And one wonders if this signboard (below),considering the condition of the board, is as ancient as the fort itself.

One would wish there were more descriptions of the various structures and direction boards to help you along. But these cannot detract from the magnificence of the structure.

If only the locals would appreciate the beauty of the monument and help preserve the site, our city would truly have come a long way.

Check out this link -
- my post on Golconda Fort was accepted for the Carnival of Cities.
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